Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Few Days in Palm Springs

This time of year, Palm Springs, California, is very hot and usually dry. Each June my wife and I take a week off to dry out. Any one who has lived a few years in Santa Barbara soon knows that June is famous for its "June Gloom" - a time of daily cool overcast weather.

As I type the temperature is approaching 110 degrees (F) and surprisingly humid. The newspaper indicates that the Santa Barbara weather is in the high 60's, and overcast - the usual June Gloom.

Most of the time I spend the week catching up on my magazines, while my wife alternates between soaking in the pool, reading, and shopping in the few local shops still open this time of year.

One "must" visit for me is to the Palm Springs Art Museum, a couple of blocks from where we always stay. This year they have a great exhibit of sculptures by Henry Moore and similar works from the early 20th century. But the must see exhibit is "D. J. Hall: Thirty-Five Year Retrospective ."

I have to admit I was not familiar with this artist Debra Jane Hall (she always signs herself with her initials: D. J.) before visiting the exhibit. But one quick glance and I realised I was in love!

To quote from the curator, Katherine Hough "Her subjects are women of privilege - those with time to lounge by pools or lunch on patios. But the hyper-realism of the work gives it an edge, makes the viewer wonder what is amiss in paradise."

The exhibit features about 50 paintings, along with examples of photographs, drawings, studies and notes that Hall has used to prepare large paintings.

"One of things she captures," continues Hough, "she presents an illusion of reality. It's not really reality and she captures that magical moment when memory reminds us of happy time we had with friends in the sunshine. It's a memory or an illusion. It's happy and bright and cheerful but when you start really looking at the subjects, there are deeper meanings."

I love her work because it is almost photo realistic, but obviously composed - the players, all women, have these wide open toothy smiles and often big opaque sunglasses. The smiles and glasses keep the viewer from really observing what was going on. There is an appealing artificiality about the paintings that captured me as I examined each.

Also, there were examples of her notes and sketches used to compose particular paintings. Often they were detailed in the style of a story board - similar to planning out a movie. A really good draftsman/artist, her sketches are very detailed and accurate. The notes said that she hired models, who often became her friends, and often provided props from her own household. I noticed how the same models and props, such as pitchers, and other items, appear in several paintings.

Though working mostly in oil, also shown were smaller artworks in colored pencils, crayon, watercolor, gouache, and pastel. I learned a lot about how she planed her "shoots" and how she set up "stories" that play with the viewer's emotions and capture one's thoughts.

If you are in Palm Springs this summer, try to visit this inspiring exhibit. Then let me know what you think about the paintngs.
Zemanta Pixie